The CameTV 7800 Gimbal: my thoughts
I’ve owned a CameTV 7800 brushless gimbal for over 6 months. I use it with my Panasonic GH4 and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (BMPCC). I love the extra dimension it has added to my work. Before the CameTV I had a love hate relationship with my Glidecam HD-4000 and so it didn’t take much to convince me that the new range of handheld gimbals was the way to go.
After reading reviews and taking price in to consideration I decided to buy the CameTV 7800 “Ready to use” model. As the label says it comes ready to use – sort of – you still have to balance your camera on it before it will work properly. It’s preprogrammed for DSLRs like the GH4 and the likes. I’ve used it with the Gh4 and BMPCC so I can’t comment on other DSLRs but I’m lead to believe that you can balance cameras up to the Canon 5D Mk3 with lens in terms of weight/size.
The 7800 came from China in a cardboard box with cut foam inside so the gimbal was nicely protected. However, the first thing I did was find a suitable protective hard case. At the time of purchase CameTV didn’t offer a case and these fragile devices are not something you want to just throw in the boot of your car! I purchased this case from Trifibre on eBay which is quite big but holds the gimbal and accessories perfectly although I have to remove the top handle before and after use. I also purchased a second battery as the 7800 is basic and gives no power readout so the supplied battery could die without warning. I’ve since realised that the battery lasts for 3 – 4 of days with intermittent use and that the 7800 emits a bleeping noise when power is low.
Setting up the 7800 was fairly easy and they provide allen keys to make adjustments. There are a lot of tutorials online for how to do this. In around an hour I had my GH4 and Samyang 14mm lens balanced and initial test footage looked amazing. I’ve since brought the Gimbal to every job including a trip to Uganda and Rwanda in January 2015.
Since first balancing the 7800, I have had to tinker only in minor ways to keep things running smooth. The only con I have noticed is that my 7800 is prone to small jerking movements that can be seen in the footage, especially on the YAW axis. This is more noticeable when ‘circling’ around a subject but not as noticeable when walking in straight lines – though its still present. To try and fix this I have used this free open source software to try and slow acceleration down to see if that removes the problem, however, I’m no NASA scientist and a lot of the software features are beyond me! Was I able to fix the problem? Its still there unfortunately. Be warned, do not upgrade the firmware or your CameTV 7800 will become a paper weight! My overall opinion on the CameTV 7800 is that you get what you pay for. Just be warned, it may need a bit more tinkering to get it to operate perfectly and you will also have to walk little funny sometimes.
A friend of mine has the much more expensive (and heavy) DJI Ronin and the footage produced by that is butter smooth. Based on my own experience on a scale of 1 to 10 I’d put the Ronin at 9 and the 7800 at 6 and a half. The Ronan comes with bespoke tuning software whereas the 7800 unfortunately doesn’t. As I said you get what you pay for.
Would I recommend the CameTV 7800? Yes if you are on a budget like me and use fairly light DSLR style video cameras. It has definitely added a new spoke to my wheel in terms of video production value. For example, I can now produce smooth follow a person shots – I found is hard with the GlideCam. I can sit in the boot of a car with the gimbal and film smooth footage of following cyclists or runners.
Here is a sample of some shots I’ve produced using the CameTV 7800 and the Panasonic GH4:
One final thought – the new Ronin M costs only around £400 more than what I paid for mine.